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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Introducing Assessment for Learning. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds Intentional dialogue requires the teacher to plan questions and activities that elicit ideas from the students. These questions make students think, they challenge students’ understanding, and they also provide the teacher with insights into the students’ thinking. From what learners say and do, the teacher could then decide what kind of response will best support and scaffold students in their next steps in learning. Often, learners need explicit training in how to discuss their ideas with others, and some students will also need continuing support. It is also important to note that the process is likely to be quite different in small group discussions compared to whole class dialogue.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds It could be a slow process, but our research demonstrates that when these ideas are implemented by teachers, there’s a noticeable change in classroom atmosphere and students get higher scores on tests and exams. We’ll now move on to focus on hinge point questions, which are a particular approach that diagnosis understanding in the middle of learning rather than, say, at the end of a session. You will learn to recognise and formulate hinge point questions and develop your understanding of how hinge point questions could work in practise. You may also find it instructive to record some of your classroom dialogue, perhaps using your mobile phone. A 5 to 10 minute episode should suffice.

Skip to 1 minute and 24 seconds From this page, you can download a checklist that may help you when you come to listen to the recording.

Summary of intentional dialogue

In this video, Dylan Wiliam draws together some key points about intentional dialogue, emphasising, in particular:

  • the importance of deciding on questions at the planning stage;
  • the way in which questioning can make students think, challenge their understanding, and give teachers insights into students’ thinking.

Dylan goes on briefly to introduce the idea of ‘hinge-point questions’ which are the next ‘big idea’ in the course.


If you had to summarise for a colleague what intentional dialogue meant in terms of your practice as a teacher, how would you describe it in five words or less?

Share your key learning words with others in the comments below, explaining why you chose them.

We also encourage you to add to your reflection grid for this week and make a note of anything that you feel is relevant to your learning.

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This video is from the free online course:

Introducing Assessment for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre